New Zealand Rugby (NZR) faces a momentous decision on the future of the All Blacks at its annual meeting tomorrow, when it will consider whether to sell a stake in the commercial value of the national team to US investors.
- Rugby officials argue the sale is necessary to secure the future financial sustainability of NZR
- Players have asked for assurances important traditional and cultural symbols for the team will not be sold and commercialised
- The sale would mark the first time in more than 115 years the All Blacks did not wholly belong to New Zealanders
New Zealand’s 26 provincial unions will vote on a recommendation from NZR that it should bundle its commercial interests into a new entity and sell a 12.5 per cent stake of that to California-based Silver Lake Partners for $NZ387.5 million ($359 million).
If the recommendation is carried, it will mark the first time in more than 115 years that the All Blacks — the most successful team in world rugby — do not wholly belong to New Zealanders.
Rugby officials argue the sale is necessary to secure the future financial sustainability of NZR, which had its finances battered last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In documents to be presented to the annual meeting, NZR proposes transferring its commercial assets to a new company to be called Commercial LP and to transfer $NZ43.75 million from the sale price to that entity as operating capital.
A further $NZ39 million will be distributed to stakeholders, mainly the provincial unions, who are also cash-strapped after last year’s disrupted season.
NZR said it would also establish a legacy fund for “longer-term strategic initiatives to ensure the sustainability of all levels of rugby in New Zealand”.
Launched in 1999, Silver Lake Partners has focused mainly on investment in the technology sector, with holdings in companies such as Airbnb, Twitter and Dell Technologies.
It also holds a stake in City Football Group which owns, among others, Premier League giants Manchester City and the A-League’s Melbourne City.
NZR embarked on a nationwide tour to sell the Silver Lake deal to provincial unions.
But the concept has faced push-back from professional players who have sought assurances that important traditional and cultural symbols such as the silver fern and the All Blacks’ haka will not be sold and commercialised.